Reports questions light rail at U of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota
MPR Photo/Tim Post

A University of Minnesota report questions the consequences of running a light rail line through the Minneapolis campus, citing concerns that vibration and electromagnetic interference from the line could damage sensitive research equipment at the school.

University President Robert Bruininks asked a faculty committee in January to study the effect of the planned Central Corridor line on nearby university research laboratories.

The report, finished this week and written by professors of engineering and medical science, noted there are more than 80 laboratories with fragile equipment in 17 buildings near Washington Avenue, the proposed light rail line route.

"The extremely close proximity of the ... line to the university research facilities presents challenges that are unique," the report said.

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The report urges university administration to insist the light rail builders limit vibration and electromagnetic interference to current levels. That could be made possible by techniques that include building on a special cushioned slab of concrete or running the trains on batteries when on campus, the report said.

"The university cannot acquiesce to mitigation strategies that compromise its research mission," the report said. The university has previously raised electromagnetic radiation concerns, as well as traffic and safety worries, about the proposed Washington Ave. route.

The $914 million-line would connect downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul. The goal is to start construction next year and have it up and running by 2014.

Peter Bell, the chairman of the Metropolitan Council, which is overseeing the light rail project, said he believed the current mitigation measures were sufficient.

"We remain hopeful that university officials will join us in working to achieve an agreement that will allow this vital regional transit improvement to go forward," he said in a prepared statement. "Their continued resistance has the very real potential to delay the project and increase its cost."


(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)